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Eclipse '99 Pictures

This is my account of the fun we had getting to see the 1999 Total Eclipse.
Captions refer to the pictures above them, you can click on the pictures to bring up the full size versions (VGA or XGA depending whether they were taken with the Epson FotoFun or Sony Mavica FD91).
After much web based research, the uncertain weather forecasts and worries of traffic congestion, we decided to set off at 2.30am on the Wednesday of the eclipse.
The sky seemed fairly clear as we drove down the M5 from Worcester, traffic was not a problem, we reached Exeter Services at the end of the M5 by 5.30am.

Devon proved to be very foggy, but as we dropped into Dartmouth it cleared to reveal a fairly clear sky.

It was now 6am so we stopped for a snack.

The sun started to rise over the horizon, cloud cover still seemed reasonably clear.

We drove down the coast a bit and found ourselves a nice vantage point looking out over the sea in a south-easterly direction. It was now around 7am and a bank of cloud was steadily moving over, the sun shortly disappeared behind it. The eclipse was still some time off, so we took the opportunity for a rest.

Cars started to take any available spaces they could.

In the area of sea we could see there were around 100 boats.

Yours truly scours the sky for a glimpse of the eclipse, it wasn't looking promising.

Yet more cars pulled up.

There was quite a lot of aircraft buzzing around, including this nice little private helicopter which flew by.

A passenger boat, hoping to find a location with a view of the eclipse.

I don't think microlights can fly high enough, so no eclipse for him either.

Then suddenly the clouds thinned enough and there it was, our first glimpse of the eclipse.

The cloud thinned still further giving an excellent view.

It was some minutes later that our next view occurred.

The cloud cover started to thicken again.

The eclipse was once more out of view, but the light level was clearly dropping.

The clouds in the distance seemed strangely drawn upwards, odd.

This proved to be our last view of the eclipse, it's just left of centre, before cloud cover blocked it out completely.

As the moment of totality drew closer darkness slowly fell.

Still darker it went. Despite the number of people around, it was so very quiet.

Then suddenly it started to get darker very rapidly. Camera flashes blinked all over the place (from both the sea and the land), in fact the larger version of this picture shows one from a boat.

The darkness was incredible, visibility on the road was certainly poor.

The eclipse had approached us from behind (sneaky), so the formerly bright horizon soon darkened as well.

After what seemed like a very short time, it started to brighten from behind us.

This produced a strange effect, with gloomy back lighting and yet darkness still in front of us. The shadow of the eclipse was now moving out into the English Channel and off to France.

The light was now rapidly returning.

So with the eclipse over (well the dark bit anyway) people returned to their cars and drove off.
Whilst it only took us a little over 3 hours to get there, it took over 6 hours to get back, the roads were gridlocked.
So was it all worth it, definitely, whilst the eclipse was visible without cloud in many other parts of the UK, they didn't experience totality, it simply isn't the same. Being plunged into darkness in the middle of the day has to be the oddest thing I've ever experienced. I could tell from the look on other peoples faces, it's a very special experience.
Finally, an apology to the people of Devon, sorry for just using your county, we only stopped for the day, we didn't buy anything or camp in your campsites or park in your pay car parks, just left ruts in your grass verges.